Is White Water Rafting Safe? Part One: Before You Arrive…

white water rafting

White water rafting in WV

The Ultimate Question: Is White Water Rafting Safe?

Safety is an important consideration in any activity, and of utmost importance at ACE Adventure Resort.  Statistically your chances of getting injured on one of our river trips are very low.  But we treat our guests as people, not statistics.  We take extra precautions to address individual needs and every participant is encouraged to personally minimize their risk before and during their trip.

The Numbers:

In 2013, 38,264 guests rafted with ACE. 19 had injuries or episodes leading us to transfer them to or recommend additional medical care beyond what we provided on the scene.  That works out to a 00.05 percent chance that rafting with ACE will result in a trip to the emergency room. And a 99.95 percent chance that it won’t!

The 4 most serious of those 19 episodes were due to pre-existing conditions – two seizures, a stroke, and heart irregularities.  The other 15 ran the gamut from a broken wrist falling down at lunch to a twisted knee to a cut finger requiring stitches and a variety of other minor accidents consistent with tens of thousands of participants engaging in an outdoor adventure activity.

Of course ideally we would like that number to be zero, and we do all we can to approach that goal.  Your efforts can go a long way to help.

Safety Steps Before You Come:

Maximizing your safety starts before you leave for your trip.  Our reservationists will take all the time you need to select the right section, season, and craft option for you and your group, from mild to wild.  You’ll be advised of age restrictions and reminded that you will be a participant, not simply a passenger on your river trip.

This is a good time to share special considerations, whether group dynamics, dietary restrictions, physical limitations, health conditions, or any other factors that would help us better prepare for your arrival.  And they’ll answer any specific questions you may have.  In the rare instance when they do not have the answer to your question they’ll find it for you or put you in touch with someone who knows.

We also encourage you to watch our safety video series to provide insights on what to wear, the equipment we will provide, how to sit in the boat, river hazards, what to do if you or someone else falls out in whitewater and how to minimize those odds.

What We Do To Keep You Safe:

All of our guides are trained in first aid and CPR.  Many have advanced training such as Wilderness First Responder, Outdoor Emergency Care, or Emergency Medical Technician.  Several work on ambulance crews or are ski patrollers in the off season.  Every new guide receives swift-water rescue training, and existing guides are encouraged to periodically renew that training.  We organize ‘Guide Olympics’ with teams of guides competing against each other in events designed to hone their rescue skills.

Every trip leader carries an extensive medical kit and means of communicating with the outside world in the event of an emergency.  Management is always on standby to provide or send help if needed.  We work closely with our professional association, the National Park Service, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, US Army Corps of Engineers, and local emergency providers to continually revise emergency protocols and enhance cooperation.

Before every trip the guides and trip leader meet to discuss any special considerations for the day.  They meet again just before putting on the river so the trip leader can share any insights gleaned from the guest check-in process.  Another huddle happens during lunch, and finally they all debrief after returning to base.

Our equipment is regularly inspected, maintained, and replaced as needed.  We were the first company to transition to self-bailing rafts and continue to seek out the best equipment to meet our needs and yours.  Mechanics work year round in our five-bay garage to keep our vehicles in good shape and our full time raft repair staff keeps the river fleet up to snuff.

All of this is akin to what any team of professionals does to prepare.  What matters most is what happens on the day of YOUR adventure, and as an active participant there is much you can do to minimize your risk and maximize your fun.

This is only part one of this three-part series, Is White Water Rafting Safe? Stayed tuned for part two and three.


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